Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Ranger signs off with defeat

Rene Ranger signed off at the Blues with a 26-16 defeat to the Chiefs. Photo/Greg Bowker.
Rene Ranger signed off at the Blues with a 26-16 defeat to the Chiefs. Photo/Greg Bowker.

For all the essential hard work completed by the forwards, we thrill more to the production from the flashy men in the backs.

Especially outside backs and those like the Blues blockbuster Rene Ranger who have inhabited the wide lanes since Super rugby began its life.

Men like Joeli Vidiri whose speed and power was a showstopper in the early years alongside the clumping thrust and devastating impact of Jonah Lomu.

Doug Howlett brought his sprinting hustle and balance to gather the record for most tries in the tournament while Joe Rokocoko did a mean dance from the time he started with the Blues before making his Auckland debut.

Then there was Rupeni Caucaunibuca, the wizard of them all, especially in that season a decade ago when he roared and glided down the left flank.

These days much of the flamboyance about the Blues comes from Ranger, who farewelled the Blues last night after 65 matches before he heads into ITM Cup action and then a stint in France.

We wondered if he and the Blues would sign off their season with a flourish.

Ranger does not fit into the orthodox rugby mold from his appearance to his collection of rugby trickery. The mop-topped bearded free spirit saunters onto the field with his socks around his ankles, giving little clue to the power and guile he can summon.

He looks casual enough until he guns the power under his bonnet. He makes mistakes and his rugby is a bit rough around the edges but that does not matter because he tries things.

His instincts are all about getting the ball and doing something with it. It's rare for Ranger to put his boot to the ball, he follows the Webb Ellis dictum about picking up the nut and running with it.

He loves lining up blokes and smashing them as he did to James O'Connor earlier this year or snaking up towards a ruck and wrestling clear for a try as he did in South Africa.

Human walls are meant to be broken and Ranger offers himself as the demolition weapon. The more obstacles the better for the man from the north.

Sadly those instincts had the bridle put on them for much of his Super 15 farewell once Kane Barrett was sent from the field. He was forced into different duties like packing in on the blindside of the scrum as the Blues divvied up the work amongst their 14 remaining men.

Early on Ranger whomped Andrew Horrell as he tried a foray into the line before he copped one himself, without any more retribution than a penalty.

When Aaron Cruden chipped the Blues line it was Ranger who surged back, retrieved and then set off on a searching run of his own.

He was picked up and dumped in a joint tackle from Cruden and Nanai-Williams and while he looked aggrieved and gesticulated at the touchjudge, there was no punishment.

Ranger threw an optimistic pass which was intercepted but he powered back to save as the Blues hung on until they ran out of resistance in the final quarter. They had shown massive ticker much as Ranger did during his Blues career.

- NZ Herald

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